St. Jerome Penitent (c.1614; Spain) by El Greco

St. Jerome Penitent - El Greco - c.1614; Spain

Artwork Information

TitleSt. Jerome Penitent
ArtistEl Greco
Datec.1614; Spain
Dimensions166 x 110 cm
Art MovementMannerism (Late Renaissance)
Current LocationNational Gallery of Art, Washington, DC, US

About St. Jerome Penitent

“St. Jerome Penitent” is an oil on canvas painting by El Greco, created around 1614 in Spain. It is a work of religious painting within the Mannerism movement, which is recognized as part of the Late Renaissance artistic period. The painting measures 166 x 110 cm and is currently held in the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, United States.

The artwork depicts St. Jerome, a Christian scholar and translator notable for his translation of the Bible into Latin (the Vulgate). El Greco has portrayed Jerome in a moment of penitence, typically shown in a contemplative or pained state as he seeks spiritual redemption. In this image, St. Jerome is depicted with a muscular physique, standing in a dramatic, contrapposto pose. His upwards gaze is directed towards a source of light, possibly symbolizing divine illumination or presence. The saint’s expression is one of intense focus and spiritual fervor, and he is often shown in scenes of penitence in the wilderness or in his study.

The painting is characterized by a marked use of chiaroscuro, a technique that contrasts light and shadow to achieve a sense of volume and depth. El Greco’s distinct style includes elongated figures and unconventional use of color and light, all of which are evident in this work. St. Jerome’s form is almost sculptural in its rendering, with strong lines and an ethereal quality that transcends naturalism, reflecting the Mannerist tendency to prioritize style and sophistication over realistic representation. The palette is somewhat dark with selective illumination, focusing the viewer’s attention on St. Jerome himself. The textural details, such as the drapery of his cloth and the landscape elements, contribute to the overall emotional and spiritual intensity of the scene.

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